SpaceX’s satellite plan suggests that Starlink spacecraft would be placed in two different sets of orbits, starting with lower-orbit satellites at an altitude of 550 kilometers. (PatentYogi via YouTube)
SpaceX wants to lower the bar for its first batch of Starlink broadband satellites, with the aim of beginning deployment by the end of 2019.
The revised plan is laid out for regulators at the Federal Communications Commission in filings that seek a lower orbit for 1,584 of the more than 4,400 satellites it envisions launching. The new target orbit would be 550 kilometers (342 miles) in altitude, as opposed to the 1,150-kilometer (715-mile) orbit described in SpaceX’s initial round of filings.
The FCC signed off on SpaceX’s original plan in March, and would have to approve the revisions.
In its filings, SpaceX said it was changing the plan based on its experience with Tintin A and B, the two prototype satellites it put into orbit in February.
Those spacecraft, which were built at SpaceX’s satellite development facility in Redmond, Wash., have been undergoing testing for months. Some observers wondered why the Tintin satellites weren’t sent into a higher orbit as planned — and the revised constellation plan could provide an explanation.
“This move will help simplify the spacecraft design and enhance the considerable space safety attributes of SpaceX’s constellation by ensuring that any orbital debris will undergo rapid atmospheric re-entry and demise, even in the unlikely event that a spacecraft fails in orbit,” SpaceX said in the documents filed today.
SpaceX said the plan for a lower orbit means 16 fewer satellites will be required — and will also reduce the potential for a traffic jam at the higher orbit, which is close to the altitude targeted by rival broadband constellations being considered by OneWeb, Boeing and Telesat.
Starlink will require thousands of satellites …read more